Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Retreat with the Sheep

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, in her 1955 book, Gift from the Sea, retreats to the beach for two weeks, living simply, in a shore cottage with open-air windows and bare walls, to write and contemplate her busy life as a wife and mother. Since I first read the book (and my grandma's notes in the margin), I have romanticized the notion of taking off by myself. To find out if I was any fun to be with. To look at hours ahead and know there was only me to fill them. To write, to read. When I turned 50 two years ago, and then when our last kid left home in August, it became uppermost in my mind. I finally made it happen last week when I headed to Idaho's famous Sun Valley resort community to the Trailing of the Sheep festival.

On the first day I attended a writer’s workshop, Women Writing and Living the West. I got to meet some of my favorite women authors, and heard stories from ranch women just like me who are brave enough to stand in a crowd and share those stories.

I went hiking/walking all three days, once into the Sawtooths under perfect skies. One morning my hike was in the forest adjacent to the city, so close in fact, that within in a minute or two of returning, I ordered a perfect mocha at the local coffee house. How “Sun Valleyesque” is that? 

On Sunday the culminating event is the parade, where thousands of onlookers line the short main street in Ketchum to witness the ancient art of herding sheep. First are dancers and musicians representing Peru and the Basque region of Spain, whose sheep raising cultures spawned the local industry. Next are a couple of horse-drawn sheep wagons. Then a dull roar rises from the crowd, and folks step into the street, craning their necks as the sheep come into view. The 1500 head flood by, the local priest at their lead, striding out in his black cloak.

From the perspective of a rangeland cattle rancher who appreciates the efforts of the solitary herder and his band of sheep in the mountains, this is genius. My hat is off to the sheep industry and the ranchers who had the foresight to turn conflict, sheep trailing to lower elevation pastures through a trophy home community, into a celebration!

As for my personal retreat, there were no great insights; Mark recognized me when I got home. I am emboldened enough to believe I can keep carving on my life through daily practice. I do feel a bit of "grace," as Lindbergh would say, that life is precious - even and especially when experienced alone.

 A day hike

stars of the parade

1 comment:

  1. favorite lines:
    -How “Sun Valleyesque” is that?
    -the local priest at their lead, striding out in his black cloak. (great image picturing it agains the white of sheep hair)
    -Mark recognized me when I got home. I am emboldened enough to believe I can keep carving on my life through daily practice.